Disney strengthens racism warning for classic animated films

Peter Pan (1953) Credit: Walt Disney Co.

Classic Disney films like Dumbo and The Jungle Book are now preceded by an updated, strengthened advisory notice warning viewers of racist content.

Short graphics appear on the Disney+ streaming service when certain older animations are selected for viewing.

“This program includes negative depictions and/or mistreatment of people or cultures,” the notice reads.

“These stereotypes were wrong then and are wrong now. Rather than remove this content, we want to acknowledge its harmful impact, learn from it and spark conversation to create a more inclusive future together.”

Lady and the Tramp is among films on Disney+ that have received an updated advisory notice. Credit: Walt Disney Co.

Disney acknowledged that Peter Pan, released in 1953, refers to Native Americans as "redskins" - a racist slur. The studio added that white characters dancing in headdresses is a “form of mockery and appropriation of Native peoples’ culture and imagery.”

For 1970 hit The Aristocats, the advisory highlights a character who “sings in poorly accented English voiced by a white actor and plays the piano with chopsticks.”

Other 20th century films, such as The Lady and the Tramp (1955), Dumbo (1941) and The Jungle Book (1968), carry a racism warning also.

Disney added initial, less thorough disclaimers, last November. They warned: “This programme is presented as originally created. It may contain outdated cultural depictions.”

The decision to update this message comes after a summer of global protests over police brutality and racial injustice. As a result, Hollywood has undergone a period of cultural reckoning, which involved Civil War-era film Gone With the Wind being briefly pulled from the HBO Max streaming service.